At many stations, commuters have to take a detour to reach the parking lot
With the Southern Railway restoring 95% of the suburban services and easing travel restrictions, the occupancy rate in trains is returning to pre-COVID-19 level.
For commuters travelling between the city and far-flung suburbs, parking yards are a crucial link in the last-mile connectivity. These facilities have been shut in many stations and the ones functioning are in poor condition.
At several stations such as Egmore, St. Thomas Mount, Palavanthangal, Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram, only one of the two parking lots on either side of the station has contractors.
Similarly, the Tambaram, Velachery and Guindy railway stations have developed into transport hubs. But commuters have to take a detour to reach the parking stand. There are no parking contractors on the side where a large section of commuters board the trains.
Railway users complain about absence of manned parking stands at Thiruninravur, Pattabhiram, Hindu College, Meenambakkam and St. Thomas Mount stations despite adequate space being available.
A. Roy Rozario, president, Pattabiram Railway Passengers’ Association, said commuters at these stations have to park their vehicles at private ‘sheds’.
J. Ranganathan, secretary, Kanchipuram-Chennai Rail Commuters’ Association, pointed to a host of problems such as absence of roof, poor illumination, fuel theft and loss of accessories of the vehicles and contractors being rude to customers in parking lot.
Mr. Ranganathan said the condition of most parking yards in the railway stations was pathetic with not even a tin roof being provided to protect the expensive vehicles. These yards did not have concrete floor.
Office-bearers of the railway passengers associations and regular commuters blamed the railway administration for its failure to ensure that contractors adhered to safety norms such as CCTV cameras, display details of parking fees for various categories of vehicles and the parking contractor’s mobile number.
A senior official of the Southern Railway Chennai Division said 43 stations had parking facilities. Of these, 27 had designated permanent contractors after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. While the Southern Railway has called for tenders for allotting 11 parking contracts, five were yet to have any contractor to man the space. The railway official said in Velachery, a contractor was available on the southern side. In Thiruvanmiyur, the contract ended in August and tender had been called. There has been poor response to the tender because of huge contract amount. The railway official said the CCTV cameras and shelters have to be installed by the licensee in the parking stand.
A multi-level parking lot was ready at Katpadi junction. At Chengalpattu, a multistoreyed parking complex is under construction. Plans were on to build multistoreyed parking lots in all major stations of Chennai Division. There was a proposal to have smart car parking facilities at major railway stations, the official added.
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